Chinese giant TCL has snagged the global contract to design, make and sell BlackBerry-branded phones. The deal applies to all but four countries: India, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Bangladesh and Indonesia.
Licensing isn’t a major departure for the company formally known as TCT (TCL Communication Holdings Ltd) – it’s been doing it for a decade. TCL bought the Palm name last year, and the Alcatel tag a decade ago, which it uses to brand its phones outside China.
BlackBerry used a TCL reference design to create the DTEK50 and DTEK60 Android phones. (The phones are better than the name) TCL marketed variants of the designs as the Alcatel Idol 4, and Idol 4S.
BlackBerry had been unable to make the phone division pay its way. BlackBerry will continue to develop its “hardened” Android – and a suite of productivity apps. BlackBerry’s uses a different kernel, boots in a secure mode and each device has unique cryptographic keys. BlackBerry also issues hotfixes and monthly patches, and has even beaten Google in getting these out more promptly to users.
The TCL group also makes white goods: fridges, TVs and aircon units, as well as TVs and display panels. Phone volumes are down from last year, but it still ships between 4m and 6m “smart devices” a month. The communications part of the group took home HK28bn ($3bn) last year. By its own estimation, TCL is among the top four phone vendors in the US.
BlackBerry has one more phone to ship before TCL and others take over completely. That one may or may not look like this. ®